FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Extraditing Assange

In a five to two decision, the British Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that because a Swedish prosecutor is properly characterized as a “judicial authority,” Julian Assange is to be extradited from England to Sweden to face accusations of rape and unlawful coercion, but Dinah Rose, arguing for the defense, immediately asked for and received a fourteen day period in  which to make an application to reopen the case, an application that relates to the Vienna Convention.

Speaking for the majority, Nicholas Phillips gave an overview of changes to British extradition law and procedures since the attacks of September 11th, noting that it used to be the case that the country in which the defendant finds himself would consider the facts and merits of the case before extradition, but that now those facts and merits are considered only in the country seeking extradition. He explained that the French phase “autorité judiciaire” encompasses prosecutors as well as judges, and he asserted that since some of the relevant law is written in French, the meaning of the French phrase must be taken into consideration.

Even if the application is made by Assange’s lawyers and then denied by the court, Assange could still appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and reports differ as to whether such an appeal would be filed only after he is extradited, or whether the extradition would be stayed until the Strasbourg court rules.

By far the most pressing question is whether Wednesday was a sad day for freedom of expression or a sad day for rapists or both. It is by no means clear that Assange would have found himself in the unenviable position of having to defend himself against sex crime accusations had he not done the journalistic work he has done, exposing multiple war crimes as well as 15000 previously covered up fatal Iraqi casualties and the transfer by the United States  of thousands of prisoners into Iraqi custody despite what was very likely a reasonable belief on  the part of the U. S. that they would be tortured (It is a clear breach of international law to transfer a prisoner into the custody of any force which will torture him or her).

The release of those records should go some distance toward resolving very many cases of disappearance and torture, and is a boon to human rights investigators and historians worldwide.

What does seem clear is that the technology behind WikiLeaks’ so-called  “strong” encryption which, according to famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, can actually prevent even the National Security Agency from discovering who a journalist’s source is, poses a direct threat to the opacity of the national security establishment.

Insofar as this technology goes, the cat is very much out of the bag, and others are free to pick up where Assange left off even if he is ultimately imprisoned in Sweden or put on trial in the United States for publishing what he has published. The United States has utterly failed to explain why some leaks of classified information are prosecuted and others (such as those to the prestige press) are not, leaving many to conclude that it likes some leaks (those that help the war effort, according to former FBI agent and attorney Coleen Rowley) but scowls on others; how the Justice Department can prosecute Assange and not The New York Times remains entirely unknown.

Were governments not so intent to spy on journalists, and if they would not try to find out through extrajudicial means the identity of journalists’ sources, the press would not find itself in the position it does: having to become expert in electronic countersurveillance in order to promise to sources what the law allows them in many of the United States: confidentiality. For those same governments then to turn around and accuse journalists of espionage is the height of bad faith.

The origins of this technology are to be found in the so-called “crypto wars” of the 1990’s, in which universities and the private sector were pitted against the U. S. government in a struggle over whether private citizens would have access to encryption which could not be broken by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Ultimately the government lost, enabling journalists to safeguard their sources, doctors to protect the medical privacy of their patients, and lawyers to ensure their clients’ secrets. The government argued that were strong encryption to be commercially available, it would greatly help kidnappers, terrorists, and drug traffickers defeat entirely legitimate surveillance, but ultimately the technology outstripped the law and the question wasn’t resolved in the courts.

Rather, strong encryption became widely available, and WikiLeaks has become the first known media organization effectively to apply it for the protection of journalistic sources. Such encryption, it is fair to say, is a real thorn in the side of the national security establishment, and an arrow in the quiver of privacy proponents.

When General Mike Mullen and then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held a press conference in essence declaring Assange an enemy of the state, the vast majority of journalists behaved as if they had just received their marching orders – no smear, no level of negative bias was from that point forward beneath them, and lo, Assange became a demon almost overnight. It was as if he became the paradigmatic “undefamable plaintiff,” someone of such ill-repute that it has become impossible to libel or slander him.

In a stupendous feat of mistranslation of the Swedish, both The New York Times and CNN reported that he was wanted for “molestation” while omitting that the alleged victims were adult women, thus creating in the minds of less careful readers and viewers the impression that he was sought in connection with a sex crime against a child and thereby doing him a profound disservice.

Attorney and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley wrote in an email,

“There are all kinds of reasons to suspect that Assange is the victim of a political persecution and that the extradition being sought by and to Sweden is merely to enable his further extradition to the U.S. for having published information revealing U.S. government wrongdoing.”

She continued,

“Our government has significantly undermined the rule of law (both constitutional and international law) since 9/11 in its attempt to become the world’s sole remaining ‘superpower’ not subject to the human rights laws or guarantees of civil rights it wishes other countries to follow. So it will not be surprising to see this ‘American exceptionalism-hubris’ play out again in vindictive prosecution of a news publisher who was the messenger of information the U.S. government did not want its own citizens to know.  I believe American citizens, however, will eventually reap ‘The Sorrows of Empire’ (as former CIA official Chalmers Johnson warned) and we will all pay the price for our government’s illegal actions on the world stage.”

D. H. Kerby is a writer living in Philadelphia.

More articles by:

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail